TESL Academy: How to Effectively use Lanes

Hi everybody! WaitThisIsntMTG back again with some more tips for newbies. Today we are going to focus a bit deeper into the theory of the game itself, in the form of discussing how to use lanes adeptly. I won’t go through every possible scenario, as this is meant to focus on the theory at a high level. To gain even deeper knowledge of this, watch some of the community’s high legend players on twitch and ask questions about their plays! The streamers we have tend to be very forthcoming about their strategies, and are how I learned most of what I know today! If you have differing opinions on anything I cover, feel free to leave a comment!

Lanes are one of the biggest differentiators of Legends from Hearthstone, but at a quick glance it seems like there is little to it. Despite how simple they appear at first glance, there are huge implications to playing creatures in the correct lane, and playing in the wrong lane at the wrong time can lose you lots of games.

Before we get started, I want to touch on a topic which can help some of these decisions involving lanes: understanding roles. In a game like TESL, a deck’s role is what it plays as in a specific match. When playing a very aggressive deck vs a very slow deck, these are obvious, the aggressive deck is the aggressor. But, what about when two control or aggressive decks face? In order to understand your deck’s role, you’ll need to know the commonly used cards in the game and what popular decks tend to play like, but once you do, it will improve your winrates. To keep it brief, in these archetype mirrors, if you make the decision your deck has less late game value, you’ll want to start being the aggressor, and vice versa. This is a really simple explanation of this, and there is a lot of nuance to understanding deck roles. If you want to explore this further, I’d recommend looking into MTG articles on the subject.

Now onto the topic at hand!

Lanes labled

As the Aggressor:

Let’s start with the most common mistake I see new players mistake: As the aggressor, facing a totally empty board and playing their creatures into the shadow (right) lane. Don’t get me wrong, there are times this is correct, like when you have an early game goblin skulk when facing a deck with cheap charge or ward creatures. However, in general, you always want to take the field (left) lane when there is an empty board. The primary reason for this is that whoever can establish a presence on the field lane first has a huge edge in controlling it because they’ll almost always be choosing how trades happen. A simple example can help illuminate exactly what I mean:

Let’s say we’re playing Midrange Sorcerer on the ring vs a tribunal control opponent. Your hand consists of Windkeep Spellsword, Young Mammoth, Wardcrafter, and Firebolt. Your opponent does not play anything their turn 1 and passed to you. If you play the Windkeep Spellsword field lane, your opponent now needs to either play a spell to kill it or play a creature in hopes of it trading evenly. Let’s say they play Wardcrafter to contest it, warding itself, and pass back to you. Since you played field lane, we get to have your turn be firebolt their wardcrafter, hit it with Windkeep Spellsword, and play Wardcrafter re-warding your Windkeep Spellsword, giving you a big advantage in the early game. Had you played Windkeep Spellsword shadow initially, you would be unable to do this, and your opponent would get to decide how windkeep and wardcrafter fight when it goes back to their turn, which is not in your favor.

As Control: You still very much want to fight for the field lane as control. The reason for this is that as the game progresses, if your opponent is forced to play shadow lane, it a) stops them from being able to effectively split lanes; and b) lets your counter plays have a higher chance of attacking and getting their effects. I will elaborate on splitting lanes next, but to elaborate on counter plays, let’s use another example.

Let’s say you’re playing Tribunal Control, and your opponent is playing Aggro Hlaalu. It’s your turn 5, you’re at 23 life with 4 cards, Shadowfen Preist, Piercing Javelin, Firebolt, and Dawns Wrath, in hand, and your opponent has a haunted manor out. You just cleared your opponents couple of early game field lane plays, and still have a hive defender with 4 health there. They just played a Thieves’ Guild Recruit and an Eastmarch Crusader in the shadow lane triggering Haunted Manor on the Eastmarch Crusader, and passing the turn. Now you’ll get to play your priest destroying the manor, and threatening the pumped Eastmarch Crusader. You’ll have to take a bit of damage on the next turn, but come your turn 6 you’ll be able to Piercing Javelin/Firebolt their turn 6 play, trade your Shadowfen Priest with their Eastmarch Crusader, and leave them with likely just 1 attack on the field, basically killing all their tempo. Then as they rebuild their board over turns 7 and 8, still forced into the shadow lane, you’ll be able to play your dawns wrath and clear their board, which will often win you the game if they are out of cards.

Splitting lanes: This is an important thing to keep in mind as the aggressor in a matchup, especially versus any willpower-based or strength-based control deck, as well as decks based upon Doomcrag Vampire. Splitting lanes refers to having creatures in both lanes. There are several reasons to do this as the aggressor, but in general it is to not fall prey to AOE like Dawns Wrath, Unstoppable Rage or Cradlecrush Giant. The key to effectively splitting lanes is to be sure that both lanes are threatening. This puts your opponent in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. If they clear one lane, you’ll still have huge tempo in the other, minimizing the impact their play had on your gameplan. Versus Willpower decks you’ll want to be especially careful of this as you approach 8 Magicka for Dawn’s Wrath, and versus Strength decks you’ll want to be careful of this at 6 mana for Cradlecrush Giant, and at 8 Magicka, if they have a lethal or powerful creature on board, be wary of unstoppable rage.

When to use the shadow lane: 

  1. Making a comeback: If your opponent has taken over the field lane, but both your life and your opponents are still high, if you’re the aggressor, you can put a large threat into the shadow lane, threatening a race or forcing an answer from your opponent. This will often give you a chance to retake the field lane after they’ve begun focusing on answering your threats in the shadow lane. If they go for a race, you will want to be sure you can push damage through their guards or other effects to slow your attacks, as well as use guards to slow their attacks. If you’re the control deck in the match, you don’t want to do this except for to protect a very valuable creature, as your opponent will gladly accept the race and probably have an advantage.
  2. Finishing off your opponent: If you’re the aggressor, and your opponent has put a barrier in the field lane that would take too much to break through, but you were able to weaken them heavily, often playing several threatening creatures in the shadow lane will help you push the final damage.
  3. Protecting valuable creatures: If you have a creature which your current strategy relies upon, say Goblin Skulk or Markath Bannerman, you can play them in the shadow lane to give them extra protection if your opponent is able to contest the creature with either creatures already there or charge creatures.

In Summary:

  1. Play into the field lane whenever possible, and especially on an empty board
  2. When you’re the aggressor, always be aware of AOE which can kill your creatures there.
  3. Use the Shadow lane to make a comeback, finish your opponent, or protect valuable creatures, otherwise fight for the field lane!

**There are situations where you won’t want to follow these rules, but they will be a good base knowledge of what to do.

That wraps up todays lesson, I hope you found this informative! Now armed with your new tools, go crush your opponents!

Victory

 

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